Can I still refuse the COVID-19 vaccine if my employer requires it?

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – If your employer requires you to get vaccinated and you refuse, you could be out of a job.

You’ve heard the question “can employers can require employees to get vaccinated?” The short answer is yes, and if you’re someone who refuses, your job is on the line. The only two reasons someone can refuse the shot are if they have an underlying health condition or deeply religious beliefs.

However, even those reasons won’t be easy to prove, according to Employment Attorney Richard Walters at Shaffer and Shaffer PLLC.

“We’ve seen a little of both come through with some of the employers I represent. One of the underlying health conditions I’ve seen was an individual that received the first shot had an adverse reaction, so her doctor recommended that she not get the second shot. So, she has a doctor backing her up,” Walters said.

If you have deep religious beliefs, you can’t just say it. You must show it and sustain it.

“For those individuals that are trying to get the deeply held religious because of the manner in which the vaccines were developed, what they are starting to find out is the COVID-19 is not the only thing developed in that manner; things like ibuprofen, Tylenol,” Walters said.

Individuals who can prove either of the two options will be exempt and be protected. The employer won’t be able to fire them. Things can be a little tricky on the employer’s side.

“As an employer, you have to be careful of what you pry into when it comes to an underlying health condition. Just because you have an underlying health condition, doesn’t mean I have the right to get into all your medical files. I have the right to verify that that exists,” Walters said.

Employers will have to take things on a case-by-case basis and do what they can to determine if the reason is legitimate.

“When you talk about places that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding, employers over 100, all head start, all federal contractors, that’s going to cover a large portion of employees throughout the state,” Walters said.

Regulations regarding the vaccine exemptions are expected to come out in the next few days that will give more guidance for both employees and employers to follow.

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